The Kansas Department of Commerce is out trying to sell counties on Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZs). The zones are being established in 50 counties across the state of Kansas, including Pratt County.


The Kansas Department of Commerce is out trying to sell counties on Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZs). The zones are being established in 50 counties across the state of Kansas, including Pratt County.

The ROZs provide income tax incentives and student loan repayment benefits as incentives for individuals to establish residency in the zones. In order for Pratt County to participate in the ROZs student loan repayment program county commissioners will need to pass a resolution and agree to certain other rules and regulations.

The ROZs provide an income tax exemption for up to five years to individuals who relocate in one of the 50 counties from out of state. Individuals must have lived outside the state for at least five years and have Kansas source income less than $10,000 per year over the past five years. The law authorizes ROZs counties to participate in a state-matching program to repay student loans of up to $3,000 per year ($15,000 maximum) for students who graduate from an accredited post-secondary institution and move to a ROZs county.

The state income tax credit portion of the program starts Jan. 1, 2012, and the counties have no control over being designated by the state of Kansas. The student loan repayment portion of the program only begins after a ROZs county opts in. Counties have until Jan. 1, 2012, to opt in.

The Pratt County Commissioners would have to obligate the county to participate in the loan repayment program for an irrevocable five-year period. Additionally, the county would have to agree to pay in equal shares with the state of Kansas the outstanding student loan balance of any resident individual who qualifies under the terms of qualifications provided by the state of Kansas in Senate Bill No. 198 and the appropriate rules and regulations. The number of qualified individuals receiving such payments will be subject to the availability of funds.

The Department of Revenue will administer the tax credit portion of the ROZs program. The Department of Commerce will oversee the student loan repayment portion. Commerce could require program participants to sign annual affidavits regarding their ROZs county residency.

Individuals will forfeit their eligibility to receive benefits under the program if they leave a ROZs county.

Pratt County Commissioners have not passed a resolution in support of this program.